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France fears a serial killer is at large

PARIS - A string of killings involving the same weapon has raised concerns a serial killer may be on the loose in a Paris suburb. It comes as France is still reeling from a wave of terror-related shootings in the south.

Four killings have taken place in the Essonne region of the capital since November, the latest that of a 47-year-old woman Thursday.

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The same semiautomatic gun was used in all four attacks, prosecutor Marie-Suzanne Le Queau said during a news conference Friday.

Authorities stressed there is no evidence of a link to terrorism in the Essonne killings, but Interior Minister Claude Gueant told French radio Europe-1 that he fears a serial killer might be behind them, and that “maximum resources’’ would be used to find the perpetrator.

French agencies are on alert after shootings last month in southern France that police say was the work of an Islamist militant who used a motorbike, videotaped the shootings, and asserted links to Al Qaeda. The alleged gunman was shot dead in a standoff with security forces.

In the Essonne killings, Le Queau said all four murders appeared to have been committed at the same time of the day, between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m.

She added that similarities were especially apparent in the last three cases, in which the victims were all shot in the head.

Gun cartridges were recovered in Thursday’s killing, when the shooter fled on a motorbike.

Authorities were still trying to establish whether just one person is behind the killings.

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